Saturday, February 27, 2010

Google Chrome Extensions

My Family Tech column this week was about the choices we have in browsers.  I mentioned to my readers that I love Google Chrome and promised a blog post outlining my favorite extensions.

I moved to Google Chrome full time a few months ago.  Now that the latest release supports extensions, and there are many useful extensions out there, I can fully recommend Google Chrome for most people.

With web access most people's number one use of a computer, your browser is a big deal.  Changing it is akin to a sales company moving their CRM from Seibel to Salesforce, or a corporation converting their financials to SAP.  Of course, it is safer for browsers.  You can, and should, have multiple browsers on your PC.  While I use Chrome primarily, I also have Internet Explorer 8 which I use for one mis-guided web site that seems to work only with IE.  And I keep Firefox, my long time favorite, around too.

I thought I'd review some of the extensions I've found useful.  If you like the software I often advocate here like Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Voice, I have found excellent extensions supporting them.

There are two Dropbox extensions in the Google Extensions Catalog.  I use the the one by rececum.  The one by Michael York is well rated.  Both let you see the files in your Dropbox, view recent activity and download the files.

There are a large number of extensions for Evernote.  The one I use is the from Evernote itself.  It lets me capture the URL of any web page I'm looking at to Evernote. If I first highlight text on a web page, I can capture that text to the note portion of an Evernote note.  And it can capture the entire web page to Evernote.  I can add tags and determine which of my Evernote notebooks it will be saved in to.

There is also a clever way to search Evernote from Chrome's address bar.  Evernote's own blog explains how.

Again with Google Voice, there are many extensions.

The official sanctioned one created by Google quickly shows me the voice mails or texts in my inbox.  And it lets me place a call or send a text quickly.

By far its coolest ability is it turns every phone number you see into a web page into a link.  When you click the link Google Voice dials  your landline or cell phone.

If you are a sales person, you can click a number in Salesforce for example, and Google Voice automatically connects you to your customer.  Even if you are not in sales, you often have to sit and call everyone on the swim team, or in the Scout troop. This takes a lot of the pain out of it, and prevents mis-dialed calls.

We are inundated with messages these days.  Personally, I have messages coming in via e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, Google Buzz and Google Wave, and text messages.  Keeping on top of them all is a monumental task.

There are extensions in the catalog  for all sorts of notifications.  I use One Number.  It alerts me to waiting e-mails on my Gmail account, Waves, Google Voice activity and Google Reader articles.  I just need one now to do all those and Google Buzz, Facebook Messages and Twitter DM's.

While researching this, I did find several Buzz extensions, and one I've installed to give me a count of unread Buzz items.

Xmarks keeps me from going crazy.  It synchronizes my bookmarks not only among my various computers I use, but also among different browsers.   It is a free service.  Extensions support Chrome, and Firefox, Internet Explorer and Mac versions of Safari .  And if you are working on someone elses computer, you can access all your bookmarks through the Xmarks web site.

Each e-mail I send someone, I want to offer them more information that might be useful for them.   WiseStamp lets me make a signature for my e-mails that can contain images, HTML formatting and information.  My current signature contains my Google Voice number, and URL's to this blog, my Public Bookmarks, my Google Profile,  my Twitter homepage and a list of my Family Tech columns.

You can include your companies logo, web address etc. in yours.  And you can have a different signature for personal and business e-mails.

I have a few others.  Shareaholic lets me share items I find on the web to my Delicious, blog and other locations.  I have yet to use it.  And I use Weather Forecast.

Be sure to browse the full catalog of Chrome extensions.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cool new Evernote Feature

Evernote promised rapid improvements once they released 3.5 for Windows, and they are starting to deliver.  I just installed the latest Beta, 3.5.2 Beta 2 and it adds draggable tags.  I've been waiting for that.  I have a lot of tags, and often I forget the one I have and end up creating new tags.  For example I have both "google voice" and "google_voice".  Now I can see my list, and drag the appropriate one over.

Guess I need to clean up my tags now.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Big Bang Theory Dang Funny

If you like tech or science and like to laugh (who doesn't?) then I hope you have discovered the TV show "Big Bang Theory".

If you haven't tonight is a good time to sample it.  One of the five best ever episodes repeats night at 9:30 PM on CBS.

To bring you up to speed, it is the story of four geniuses and a normal girl.

Leonard and Sheldon are roommates.  Both are Ph.D.'s in Physics working at a California University.  Penny is the girl across the hall.  Rounding out the cast is Raj, another Physics Doctorate, and Howard, an engineer.

After two seasons lusting after Penny, Leonard and Penny are now in a relationship.

Penny is an attractive, popular, socially adept struggling actress and waitress.  Much of the story line is the differences in social abilities between the boys and Penny, with Penny representing the rest of the world.

In the biggest breakout performance since The Fonz, is Jim Parson's portrayal of Sheldon.  Sheldon is the poster boy for Asberger's Syndrome.  Sheldon requires a regulated routine, and is clueless when it comes to social interaction.  Although with an IQ of 187 he understands he needs to improve in this area, even though he does not understand its value fully.

One jarring part of tonight's episode is it fails to show the relationship Penny and Sheldon have eked out.  It is necessary to setup the hysterical plot.  In other episodes you'll see how Penny has taken on a somewhat nurturing role to Sheldon.  Although she can get profoundly exasperated by him, she understands that he different and often trying hard.

And the B plot of Raj and Howard trying to pick up Goth girls is also entertaining, but it is the A plot tonight that makes comedy gold.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Family Tech Column

My Family Tech column for the News and Messenger this week is about telecommuting.  The recent snows here in DC shut down the federal government and many businesses for days.  While the Fed and many of those businesses have been good about implementing telecommuting policies, this storm should inspire those that have not be forthright with work from home policies to look at it again.

And everyone should look at how they might work from home during periods like this.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Outdoor Green Screen

It's amazing how effective using green screen video technology has changed location shooting.   You only need to watch the first 30 seconds to get the idea, but there are four minutes of examples using real TV programs if you are captivated by it as I am.

I first saw this on Engadget.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Still pondering the iPad, and tablets in general

It's not even shipped yet, and Apple's iPad has already polarized techies almost as bad as politics has polarized in the last ten years.

On the plus side, iPad's clean design and interface make it attractive.  On the negative, is Apple's notorious closed system.  Foremost in that is the App Store.  While it protects, theoretically, viruses and trojans from reaching the platform, Apple also uses it to prevent apps they feel competes with them.  And most frightening is their ability to delete an app from your device if after initially approving it, they disapprove it.

The control extends to hardware.  Apple sells the iPad in various memory sizes.  They could easily have sold it with 16 gigs but with a memory card slot so you could have as much memory as you want simply by buying memory cards.  That would have impacted their ability to upsell you to a larger, more expensive product, so you lose, they win.

I'm sort of glad I'm not in a position to just rush out and buy one initially.  I think the shakeout of the iPad will be interesting.  Just as the iPhone now little resembles the one first released (remember, apps were not going to be possible?), the iPad will also go through some amazing growth in the first years it is out.

I was building one thesis which has been diluted recently.  I was thinking perhaps having an iPad that was wi-fi only and not the higher priced 3G models would propel the sale of Mi-Fi's.  These small (shirt pocket sized) battery operated devices create local wi-fi atmosphere around you letting wi-fi enabled devices to use the 3G networks.  That way, you could buy one of the less expensive iPad's and still get to 3G.  Likewise the Mi-Fi would let your laptop, your PSP, and your other wi-fi tools all reach the internet from virtually anywhere.  Mi-Fi;'s are availble from Sprint and Verizon.  It would give iPad users a way to bypass the dreaded (by many iPhone users anyway) AT&T.

What diluted that thesis was remembering the wi-fi only iPad does not have GPS in it.  Augmented Reality applications are taking off, and having them on a larger screen then the iPhone would be desirable.

I'll say one thing for Apple.  I've been lusting not for an iPhone, but an Android phone.  But if I had an iPad, then having an iPhone would be logical since any app you buy for one, would work on the other.  Of course, that is likely to be true for an Android tablet.  Again, I think I'm happy I'm forced to wait.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Evernote Integrations

My favorite took, Evernote has announced that February is Partner Month.  They will the focusing on partners with products linked to Evernote and introducing new products integrated to Evernote.  This is exciting.  I have ideas of things I want hooked to Evernote.  I hope to see them so I don't have to develop them myself.

They have already focused on the Nokia N900 and Cliqset.

By the way, Evernote's servers will be down for maintenance Saturday 11 AM to 4 PM PST.  If you are using a desktop client, or a phone client with local storage, you should still be able to access your notes.  You won't be able to use the web version or sync during the server downtime.

I wonder if something new if coming, or if it is just standard maintenance to serve their growing user base?

Google Voice Mail Reference Card

Coolgeex has a pretty useful Google Voicemail Reference Sheet.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Mac, Jobs and iPad

The goal was to point out the advantages Mac's offer, pay homage to Steve Jobs for his contributions to the tech industry, and give my first impressions of the iPad.  That's this week's Family Tech column in the News & Messenger.